Rajeev Madhavan is Founder and General Partner at Clear Ventures, a firm focused on seed-stage deep tech investing.
Sramana Mitra: We are going to start today’s session with a conversation with Rajeeev Madhavan, the founder and general partner of Clear Ventures. I have known him for a long time. He has been here before. You may have listened to his previous session. It has been a while and we want to catch up. Welcome back to the show!
Rajeev Madhavan: Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here during these interesting times.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s catch up. What is going on right now with your fund and investment thesis? How have things been since we last spoke? Let’s level set a bit.
Rajeev Madhavan: We are a $330 million venture fund in Palo Alto. Typically, on the first check, we do check sizes of around $200,000 all the way up to $6 million. There were rare occasions when we even went higher than that.
We can do deep tech projects that take a lot of money. We also invest in some that are in the very early stages. Out of the 19 investments that we have done, 18 are seed investments and one is Series A. We don’t start with Series B; we are very much the first investors. A lot of VCs will say that they do seed, but when we say seed, there is no business plan. Many of these things gravitate from what it is to pivot to a real product. We are what we consider the first check, but not necessarily the first venture check.
We have two consumer-oriented investments. We have one that is B2C, but everything else is in the B2B enterprise-class software with a deep technology focus. That is what we are good at. The partners of this fund are people who have done these long investments either as venture partners or as operators. These include people like me who have run three or four companies in Silicon Valley.
We think that we are better in the early stage than in other stages. In the early stage, money makes more of a difference. We add a lot of value in the very early stages.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk a little about the companies that you have invested in. Double-click down from deep tech into some of the areas where you are seeing interesting companies. Talk us through what makes it interesting and why it is interesting.
Rajeev Madhavan: Out of the 19 companies we’ve invested in, 15 have announced their products. The remaining four are still in stealth mode because they are new and are still working on their product. They will be launching their product in the next 6 to 9 months. Among the 15, I am going to pick the two extremes just to give an example of different things.
We only have three semiconductor investments out of the 19. One of them is Atmosic. It is a chip for Bluetooth communications. Today, Bluetooth requires batteries and an on processor. If I forget to charge my headphones today, then I am out of luck. I have to scramble to find another headphone. This is a self-charging chip.
This means that you can put it anywhere and it sucks out energy from the air. It can charge automatically. Think about your IoT devices. Every quarter or every six months, you have to run around and go get a set of batteries. With this, you won’t need to do that.